Could changing the font really help dyslexics? Dyslexia is a very common and serious learning disability that shows no prejudice. Intelligence, sex, race, and culture do not affect who is born dyslexic. Up until just recently in the developed world, dyslexics were generally deemed illiterate or just plain stupid. With early identification of dyslexia, teachers are now able to introduce different tools and tactics to help the dyslexic stay on top of their schoolwork. Now there is another tool that they can put in their arsenal – Dyslexie, a font for dyslexics.
I first heard of this via a tweet from Sir Richard Branson, a dyslexic himself. Studio Studio, a graphic design firm from the Netherlands, developed the font to aid the dyslexic reader in distinguishing letters from each other, making their reading experience more consistent.
One of the challenges of dyslexia is knowing which way a character even sits on the page. Which part is the bottom and which is the top? If you don’t know then a ‘p’ could easily appear to be a ‘d’. That little mistake could change a pear into a dear. “I’m sitting here eating my pear.” takes on a whole new meaning! In order to combat this type of confusion, the bottom portion of the letters in the Dyslexie font are wider and heavier set, kind of like a Weeble Wobble. This helps the letters stay right-side-up in the dyslexics mind.
Another challenge in letters is that some of them have near mirror-images in other letters. Take the letters ‘p’ and ‘q’ for example. For a dyslexic, minding your q’s and q’s makes no sense. The Dyslexie font tackles that by making mirror letters more distinctive. The lower-case ‘q’ in Dyslexie looks like a miniature upper-case Q.
If one letter is similar to another, and all that makes them different is their height, Dyslexie either exaggerates the height or gives one of the letters a tilt to make it look different. Take ‘i’ and ‘j’ for example. Especially in sans-serif fonts, the letters ‘i’ and ‘j’ look very similar. In Dyslexie, the ‘j’ is elongated and tilted towards the right hand side of the page, to make it more unique to the eye.
There are many other subtle changes that Dyslexie uses to make the font more readable for people with dyslexia. However, they didn’t just focus on making a technically superior font, they also developed an aesthetically pleasing font. Imagine trying to read a whole book, or even just a paragraph in comic sans. It would grow tiresome really quickly. Yet the Dyslexie font is pleasant to the eye, even for non-dyslexics.
Does it work? That’s the only question that is important here. According to a study performed by Judith van de Vrugt, essentially three-quarters of the 250 people participating found the typeface to be helpful. It was reported that users could read faster with fewer mistakes. There was less time spent going over a word or sentence multiple times until it made sense. Half of the pupils participating said it made reading more fun. What more could a parent want than a child who thinks reading is fun?
In the same paper, Annalotte Ossen’s research survey of primary school students shows that over 84 percent surveyed would recommend Dyslexie to friends and 72 percent found that the font contributed positively to their study habits. These aren’t the only results of the survey, however they may be the most noteworthy.
In Renske de Leeuw masters thesis Special Font For Dyslexia? (2010), it was found that students didn’t read the test text any faster in the Dyslexie font, however they did make fewer reading errors. When that happens, confidence and comprehension should go up.
On a personal note, my wife is dyslexic and found the font easier to read as well. That’s the best endorsement to me.
How to Get It and Use It
You can buy the font right from Studio Studio’s website. The personal use license is good for one year and only costs about $14. Once you have the font downloaded, you can set it up as the default font to use on all of your devices. Documents converted to the font will also print out nicely and be easier to read. This might make downloading a printing e-books a good idea for you, finally. Schools pay about $124 a year for the font, which is peanuts really. If you’re a corporation or a publisher though you will pay significantly more – from $165 and up. When up to 15 percent of a population could be dyslexic, this is money well spent.
If you simply can’t afford this font, there is an open source font called Open-Dyslexic that is somewhat similar. I can’t say if it infringes on Studio Studio’s copyright, or if it is as good as their font, but there seem to be enough similarities to suggest it could be helpful.
If you or someone you know is dyslexic, there is help available. Don’t be shy asking or offering help either. The ability to read is one of the things that helps a person to become as independent and fulfilled as they want to be! If this font helps them then get it! Books can literally take us anywhere and no one should be denied that magic.
If you’re a dyslexic, do you think this font helps? What does help you? If you could by your books with this font, would you mind paying slightly more? Let us know in the comments – technology should enable everyone.